Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Date of birth and death:
May 31, 1945 – June 10, 1982
Where were they born:
Rainer Werner Fassbinder was born in Bad Wörishofen, Bavaria, Germany just after WWII. Fassbinder’s family had suffered greatly from the aftermath of WWII. Therefore, his mother had wished that he be born in 1946, in which Fassbinder would comply with as his birth year. He was born an only child to Helmut Fassbinder, a doctor and Liselotte Pempeit, a translator. In 1951, Fassbinder’s parents divorced and he was raised by his mother. While Fassbinder’s mother was working she would send him to the cinema to pass time, there he would watch several movies a day. He recalls during his childhood “the cinema was the family life I never had at home.” Fassbinder’s mother had then become ill and while she was recovering from Tuberculosis, his mother’s tenants and friends would look after him. Being left alone, independent, and having constant problems with his parents, Fassbinder had become a juvenile delinquent. He came out as gay at a young age and would find comfort in writing poems, short plays, and stories.
Where did they study:
At the age 18, Fassbinder returned to school to study drama in Munich. There he would take acting lessons, assist in directing, write plays, and make 8 mm films. He was rejected from Berlin Film Academy but Fassbinder didn’t give up. Instead he had his partner finance his films in exchanged for leading roles. He also acted out in his own films and had his mother act out some parts of his movies. In 1967 Fassbinder joined the Munich Action-Theater, where he was became the company’s leader. There he was active as an actor, director, and script writer. In May 1968, the Action-Theater was disbanded after it was destroyed by one of its founders who was jealous of Fassbinder’s growing power at the theater. This didn’t stop Fassbinder from working, he continued writing and directing. He did much work on his own and had his own group of young actors. He pretty much created his own success with the talent he had.
Their most important films: Title and date created
The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant (1972) – A fashion designer Petra Von Kant suffers an abusive relationship with her husband and lives her life miserably in her bed. She uses her maid Marlene as a personal slave and also falls in love with a younger woman Karin who wants to be a model. Karin only uses Petra and does not love her in return. When Karin leaves Petra, Petra goes insane and is again miserable and disrespectful to everyone around her. Marlene listens to Petra’s stories while she works and knows everything about her. When Petra finally finds peace she allows Marlene to be free. Marlene packs her suitcase but it seems like she packs it with everything that she knows will hurts Petra.
Ali:Fear Eats the Soul (1974) – A forbidden relationship between an Arab immigrant named Ali and an older German cleaning lady named Emmi. They have fallen in love accidently and decide to marry but society does not approve of their relationship. Ali and Emmi both have a huge age difference. Ali is also a migrant worker who the Germans portray his kind as filthy animals. Ali then cheats on Emmi with the bartender from the bar where he usually goes to. She is a much younger woman who can cook him couscous. Despite what Ali did, his illness, and Emmi’s friends and family not approving of him, Emmi continues to love him.
Fox and his Friends (1975) – Fox loses his job as a circus performer, however he is sure that he will win the lottery. He meets a man named Max who is of the middle upper class and introduces Fox to his gay circle of friends. Fox wins the lottery and begins living the lavish life. He starts a relationship with Eugen one of Max’s friends and also becomes his business partner. Fox being originally of the working class struggles to be assimilate with Eugen’s lifestyle, friends, and family. Struggling to climb up the social ladder, he loses his new circle of friends, his money, and his life.
What is considered their best film? Why is it considered their best?
Fassbinder first gained international success with Ali: Fear Eats the Soul. Fassbinder filmed the movie on a very-low budget and filmed it within 15 days. It was his quickest and cheapest film. The work done for this film won him the International Critics Prize at Cannes and was acclaimed by critics as one of 1974’s best films. Ali:Fear Eats the Soul was the movie that gave him recognition. The movie has great ratings and is the favorite of many of Fassbinder’s fans. The movie is based on Fassbinder’s love and admiration for El Hedi ben Salem who was his partner. Their relationship together was very abusive and both of their deaths were caused by suicide. This led a lot of people who are interested in Fassbinder’s films to watch the movie Fear Eats the Soul and discover what Fassbinder loved about El Hedi ben Salem through the character of Emmi.
Did they invent or improve any techniques used in filmmaking?
Fassbinder was the face of the new German cinema; he introduced gay romance, social class conflict, racism, and life in West Germany. Fassbinder tells his stories in a series of 5 or 6 long scenes with extended uses of a single camera shot and deep focus. He also has done movies in which the settings of his films take place in one or a few locations. Fassbinder’s first ten films from 1969–1971 were said to be an extension of his work in the theater, shot usually with a static camera and with deliberately unnaturalistic dialogue. He also was an actor in his own films that he produced.